Welcome my friends and fellow Viners to another segment of...
Today we shall tackle another video game related controversy in larger detail which I covered up in my Assassin's Creed Unity preview blog and I promised I would do an separate one in time.
If you may recall my Assassin's Creed Unity preview blog, I addressed about the lack of female characters in Co-Op in which I criticized Ubisoft's reasoning in technical details. Likewise, another Ubisoft upcoming title Far Cry 4 caught some flak as well for the lack of female characters in multiplayer (although not compared to the alleged "racism" in that game). Both games were to feature playable females at some point but they were scrapped in the last minute in order to not exceed their own costs, which just screams "We don't want to do any work".
I won't dwell too much on Ubisoft 's bullsh&t I already did that in my other blog and I won't further beat that horse like everyone did, besides it certainly was not the first company to being accused of sexism when last year, Rockstar had three male POVs on Grand Theft Auto V and no female one (although you could be an female in Multiplayer at least that). And when you get down to it, it's more of product of laziness than actual misogyny, since the Co-Op characters are pretty much the same one, instead of their own independent entities (which bothers me to no end). At the same time, the side-effect is something that come across as sexism, as they didn't bother to explore different POVs, including that of women. There is an unspoken and disturbing tendency for several publishers to avoid having playable female characters under any cost. 2013's Remember Me was such game, whose developer Jean-Max Morris, lamented the fact he had fight with tooth and nail to have Nilin as the main protagonist with her own life and a relationship with an male character. As he recounts what people had told him:
“We had some [prospective publishers] that said, ‘Well, we don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that.’ …We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy,” Morris said. “We had people tell us, ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.’ I’m like, ‘If you think like that, there’s no way the medium’s going to mature.’ There’s a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it’s not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don’t know, that’s extremely weird to me.”
Sadly, despite Morris' best efforts, the game didn't sold very well and was slammed by the Metacritic reviewers. Regardless of the games' success or not, these people' sexist and homophobic remarks shows how much this industry is still backwards. Executives seem to think that nobody really wants to see females outside of supporting roles, because their target audiences "can't see themselves" in character that is not like them. Which is always there has being a prevalence of monochromatic gun-bros, white generic American males with one-dimensional personalities so that their players can easily put themselves as them.
There is absolutely no denying that there are great and memorable video game heroines such as Lara Croft, Samus Aran, Jill Valentine, Bayonetta, Amateratsu and so forth. Unfortunately, its also an sad truth that games with leading ladies don't make much profit for whatever reason, even ones that already become popular. Look no further than the already mentioned Bayonetta, an much loved beat 'em up/hack 'n slash game that had its own following, and if it had only managed to live up to its financial expectations, theny maybe today, its sequel wouldn't have to become an WiiU exclusive and be available for everybody. Believe it or not, the 2013's Tomb Raider reboot was this close to being an financial bomb, despite being a success among critics and fans, Square Enix reported that the game still failed to met their expectations (though, non e was the story or Lara Croft's fault, but rather the bloated budget into making a new engine and unnecessary features such as multiplayer). Thankfully, the reboot's popularity manage to secure an future with an upcoming sequel in the makings.
Even so if the most popular female icons are having trouble keeping up, then I weep for the newcomers. You'd think that in this male-dominated industry which the most prevalent belief that sex sells, they would cash in on the third-person seductresses, you know the impossibly curvy and busty heroines, implausibly and impractically dressed, trying to cash in the sex appeal as much as possible (as an old saying goes "If I might stare to an ass all day, it might be an sexy one"). . I mean, does anyone remember BloodRayne, Red Ninja: End of Honor, X-Blades/Blades of Time, Bullet Witch being that much of a success? It seems like doesn't matter if they are realistic, objectified and idealized, the AAA industry simply doesn't care about females. PERIOD.
One possible reasoning behind this mentality is that majority of these games in recent years that happened to have playable females, such as Metroid: Other M, Amy and Final Fantasy XIII, were panned by both critics and audience. Somehow, companies perceived this as "players don't like playing with girls" rather than the actual games' questionable quality. Those games didn't suck because there were female protagonists in it, they sucked because they really f*cking sucked. Though the prevalence of males has always being a thing, even with the recent rising of female gamers and despite their claims to appeal to an wider audience, we all know they just want the same audience they always had, only in bigger number. Why you think that focus groups of 12-year old boys are still used to this day? Who the f*ck cares for what guys like Morris had to say about we maturing as an form of art? (The last bit was sarcasm...)
It's an very serious issue and one too complex to come up with an answer how to solve it. This is certainly not an exclusive problem to video games, as superhero movie aren't so different and has a long story of failures and mess ups to their history. I find really amusing that while several companies had being struggling or outright neglected having heroines in their games, over the course of two years Nintendo, which every armchair analyst has being saying to be with one feet in the grave, managed to have playable women in every single one of the games they released. Not to mention the upcoming release of Bayonetta 2 and Hyrule Warriors, the former bringing back the eponymous popular lady from the previous generation and the latter having a huge female cast - Sure, Link is still the hero like he always is but, hell, look at how many girls, ladies and babes the roster has (Zelda, Impa and Midna being among the playable characters just to name a few) they even managed to have an female villain in the story (something unusual for Legend of Zelda games). And they all managed to do that with much less money and resources than Ubisoft. Ooh I guess somebody' ass got schooled.
Thank you guys for reading it. I hope you enjoyed this blog and I'd like to hear how you feel about this effect in gaming. Did you notice that before or is it the first time you hear about it. I'd like to share your own opinions in the comment section. See ya next time =P
For those interested into the further subject, I recommend watching Jim Sterling's opinion, from the Escapist fame, on it.